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A Year in Review: Confessions of a Debut Novelist

Posted by on 31 December, 2013

On Writing

Bound to the Highlander, Kate Robbins

Bound to the Highlander, Kate Robbins

When I think back to my goals for 2013, topping my list was to get Bound to the Highlander polished enough to submit to publishers. Little did I know what would follow. A contract, a contest win, and good rankings were all things I could not foresee. I still have to pinch myself and wonder if all that really happened. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To all of you who read BTTH, I am gobsmacked and humbled. Thank you to all who helped get the word out. Words cannot express how grateful I am for your kindness. <3 <3 <3

But the very best part of it all was the people I met along the way. I always wondered who would eventually pick me up and I couldn’t be more pleased it was Tirgearr Publishing. Further to that, my editor is the bomb! Having a fabulous working relationship with your publisher is worth its weight in gold.

I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fly to Halifax and meet some of the phenomenal writers in my RWA chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. From my warm welcome and tour by one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, Tara MacDonald, to the surprise cake and barrel of laughs with Shawna Romkey, to my near smackdown with Julia Phillips Smith over a claymore, to my day with the lovely Michelle Helliwell and her family, my trip in June was everything I had hoped for and more. Really hoping to do it again in 2014.

On Research

Me and bro in Edinburgh

Me and bro in Edinburgh

Sometimes when a challenge comes our way, it brings a new opportunity. My heart dropped right to my toes when I found out my brother, Glenn, was going to Afghanistan for nine months. I don’t get political on my social media channels ever, but I will say I was adamant that I did not want him there. But somehow the fates softened the blow for me because bro informed me that while there he could take a trip and he wanted to me to go with him. I’ll give you three guesses where we went and the first two don’t count. Along with gathering some incredible research for my second book, I got to spend two weeks with my awesome brother. So proud of him.

There’s a scene at the end of Promised to the Highlander where the heroine of the next book sits at the base of Castle Varrich contemplating all the shit she’s gone through and what the future might bring. Little insight—that’s all me. Not the specific experiences, but the contemplation in that very spot.

On Reading

cropped-debbies-timeline.jpg2013 was a huge reading year for me. I read over a hundred books and would like to share some of the ones that stood out. Here they are in no particular order with my reviews from Amazon. If there’s no links it’s ‘cause I gave it a five star but didn’t have time to review.

Speak of the Devil, Shawna Romkey
“There was gas in the tank, a cell phone charger in the car, an angel sitting next to me, what did I have to lose?”

Sole survivor of a tragic car accident, teenage Lily struggles to carry on with her life after losing her two best friends. Lily’s attempt to escape the torment of survivor’s guilt fails and her despair follows her to a new town and a new school. I felt her agony every step of the way.

Romkey does an incredible job of drawing the reader into every ounce of anguish Lily feels all the while holding onto the slightest hope things will get better. Survival instinct battles survivor’s guilt and I think that’s what sets this book apart. The theme is mature and raw and real. Lily needs saving.

Enter a hellishly irresistible angel. But she doesn’t know it yet. If ever the was an angel a girl could fall for, Luc is it. The pull Lily experiences towards him escalates as the plot takes a gripping turn. Angels, fallen angels and an absent God, this book kept me spellbound right from page one.

Speak of the Devil is the first in Romkey’s epic series and I cannot wait for more from this debut author.

Rhythm of My Heart, Kemberlee Shortland
Steeped in Irish culture, Rhythm of my Heart is the story of two people drawn to one another by an ethereal pull.

Eilis Kennedy hasn’t had a great history with men and has focused instead on her career which involves discovering new musical talent in Dublin, Ireland. I connected with Ellis right away and felt invested in her journey. She’s a real woman with real insecurities about her weight and her looks, pouring all her energy into her career.

Her search efforts bring her to a hole-in-the-wall pub on Dublin’s northside where she meets Kieran Vaughan. Wowsers. The connection between these two is immediate and intense. I don’t want to post any spoilers so it’s best I say nothing else about Kieran, except perhaps to grab something to fan yourself. 🙂 I couldn’t put this book down.

Kemberlee Shortland has crafted a beautiful story with a rich setting including everything I imagine Ireland to be. Her characters are real and the chemistry is just how I like it – steamy. Well done. Looking forward to more from this author.

Braco, Lesleyanne Ryan
Braco follows the journey of a young boy as he and his family flee Srebrenica to escape the approaching Serbian army. Told from six points of view: the boy, his mother, a Dutch peacekeeper, a Canadian journalist, a Serb soldier, and a Bosnian soldier. Braco gives a broad spectrum of the war and its impact on those caught in its grip.

I wasn’t sure about the multiple points of view at first. The story is primarily about the boy, Atif, and his desperate attempt to survive and so I worried the other POVs would jar and confuse me. They didn’t. Not by a long shot. What became apparent was that the author wanted the reader to see that the business of war is not black and white. Many shades lie between and as the Dutch peacekeepers and Canadian journalists often question, “Bad guys?” or “Good guys?”. Lines blur in the midst of chaos.

Ryan’s writing is clean and concise. I love the almost journalistic style which allowed me to connect at my own pace. The subject material in this novel is disturbing and I wasn’t bombarded by the author preaching what I should feel. I appreciated that. Braco is an incredible novel telling an incredible story. I look forward to many more from this author.

Demon’s Daughter, Paula Altenburg
“The only thing that had saved Freetown from devastation already was the Demon Lord’s desire to possess the spawn. Once he had it, the lives of mere mortals would be forfeit.”

In Demon’s Daughter, Paula Altenburg creates a fantasy world where demons and goddesses have dwelt. Mere mortals have had no defence against either’s whims and as such the earth has suffered in their wake.

Airie possesses powers she does not understand and her parentage has been kept from her. Hunter is a demon slayer and sent to capture the thief on the mountain, however, what he finds there is not what he expected. Together they explore a growing bond between them as their preconceptions of each other are challenged at every turn.

I loved the character arcs of both Airie and Hunter. They both changed and learned inner truths over the course of this action packed story. There’s a real racial theme explored in this book and I found myself captivated with Altenburg’s attention to the world she built and the characters she carefully crafted.

Demon’s Daughter is the first in her Demon Outlaw series and I cannot wait to dig into more from this author.

Against Her Rules, Victoria Barbour
Elsie owns an elite B&B in a remote outport on the island of Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast. Completely self reliant, she is proud of her success, even if it has come with a price. There’s not too many ‘fellers’ kicking about the small town of Heart’s Ease and Elsie has sworn to never fraternize with the guests…ever again.

Smoking hot Scottish artist, Cam needs inspiration and the busy streets of London are just not cutting it. When his sister books the remote location overseas, he reluctantly agrees. Finding the place proves challenging, though not so much as keeping his hands off the deliciously rigid owner.

Against Her Rules is the witty contemporary debut novel from Victoria Barbour. The author has created rich characters that charm the reader on every page. Barbour’s setting is vivid and her storytelling is tight. I look forward to many more charming and fresh stories from this wonderful new author. I think she has a very bright future as a romance novelist.

EXPECTED, Sarah England
“The child was so full of milk, if they shook her up for long enough, she’d crap butter.”

EXPECTED follows the life of Samantha Sweet, a former nurse who has opted for a career change. We meet her when she’s at a point in her life where she’s stopped to take a good look around. She is NOT happy with what she sees.

This story, while tackling some serious issues on the under-current, made me laugh out so many times I lost count. Sam is usually not the kind of protagonist I go for and so the fact that I couldn’t put this book down is a testament to the author’s fresh and witty writing style.

I can’t compare the book to any others because I’ve not read anything quite like it and that was refreshing. Sarah England has given us a real gem in EXPECTED. Looking forward to more from this author.

Racing With the Wind, Regan Walker
What did I love about this book? Everything.

Walker’s attention to detail is incredible. Add to that larger than life characters, a passionate love story, and political intrigue and the result is a fantastic book I couldn’t put down.

Hugh Redgrave is a smokin’ hot hero who’s easy to root for. Lady Mary is adventurous and passionate. I sometimes find characters like her overbearing, but I didn’t with her. Walker carefully crafted her and she did a fantastic job of it. The story’s setting and political backdrop added a wealth of texture to the story.

Fantastic job Ms. Walker. I will be reading more of your books.

Some other books I read that I five starred but didn’t get a chance to review include:

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
The Painted Girls, Cathy Marie Buchanan (my top pick of the year)
Blood She Read, Sara Hubbard

I have to include that I read Bared to You, by Sylvia Day over and over this year as well. LOVE that book!

On Looking Forward

Castle Varrich, Kyle of Tongue

Castle Varrich, Kyle of Tongue

2014 promises to be a huge year for me and I sincerely hope I’m up to the challenge. With the print version of BTTH just a few weeks away and a pending date for release of Promised to the Highlander, I also plan to write Enemy of the Highlander (book three in the Highland Chiefs series). I will add that I have another series I’m itching to sink my teeth into as well set in Scotland (of course) in the 16th century. I have my research all in order and can’t wait to dive in as soon as EOTH is done.

I have several books on my To Be Read list right now including:

Bound by Dragonsfyre, Julia Phillips Smith
Highland Solution, Ceci Giltenan
Harcourt’s Mountain, Elaine Dodge
Midwinter Masquerade, Rosemary Gemmell
Rowan’s Lady, Suzan Tisdale
419, Wil Ferguson
Amsterdam, Ian McEwen
Redemption, Troy Lambert

Man, there’s so many others I could be here all day! 2014 promises to be another great reading year. 🙂

Thank you for being a part of my year. I wish you all a very prosperous and happy 2014.

10 Responses to A Year in Review: Confessions of a Debut Novelist

  1. Janet

    Long time lurker coming out of hiding to wish you a Happy New Year!! May it be just as good (boy, you had an awesome year, Kate) or even better than 2013!!

    FYI – loved Amsterdam by Ian McEwan!

    • katerobbins

      Hi Janet! So glad you said hi! 🙂 I think the top of my head might fly off if 2014 is half as good. LOL I can’t wait to read Amsterdam. Loved Atonement. He’s some powerful writer.

      Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year as well and don’t be a stranger. 🙂

  2. Shawna

    Thanks for giving Speak of the Devil a mention! Have a great 2014! Can’t wait to see you again on your next trip to Hali!

  3. cecigiltenan

    We seem to be on a similar journey! I am thrilled to have “met” you this year and that I am on you TBR list. I am really looking forward to more of your great Highland romances. Wishing you all the best in 2014.
    Ceci

    • katerobbins

      I think we are Ceci! So thrilled to have met you as well and so happy for your success. I can’t wait to read Highland Solution and to have you here in this space very soon. 🙂 Happy New Year!!

  4. Elaine Dodge

    Hi Kate,
    So nice of you to mention my book, Harcourt’s Mountain in your to be read list. Is it still on the list or have you read it yet. I’d love it if you could review it for me!

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